Gosar said there was one Independence Day that applied to all Americans, despite Black Americans still being enslaved when the United States’ Declaration of Independence was signed.
Republican Congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs on Wednesday were the only representatives from Arizona to vote against making Juneteenth, which honors the end of slavery in the United States, a national holiday.
Juneteenth, or June Nineteenth, has been celebrated for decades, but gained more prominent attention last summer amid nationwide protests and calls for the United States to confront its history with racism. More companies began officially recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday, and on Wednesday, Congress officially passed a bill making it a national holiday.
Arizona has officially recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday since 2016, but Biggs and Gosar stood with 12 other House Republicans Wednesday who voted against the move to recognize the holiday nationally.
In a statement following the vote, Gosar said there was only one Independence Day, and it applied “equally to all people of all races.”
“Our country is divided, and the cultural and political Marxists are continuing their relentless efforts to divide this country further,” Gosar wrote. “I reject racism. I reject the racial division people are promoting. I voted no because this proposed holiday does not bring us together, it tears us apart.”
Black Americans were still enslaved in 1776 when the original Declaration of Independence was signed and would not receive emancipation for another 86 years.
In a video posted to Twitter ahead of the vote, Biggs said that he supported the celebration of Juneteenth, but was voting no because of the official name of the holiday: Juneteenth National Independence Day.
“What it is really is, it’s Emancipation Day,” Biggs said. “They could have made this a really harmonious, celebratory bill … if they would have taken it through committee and they would have changed the name.”
The bill passed out of the House of Representatives 415-14 after passing unanimously in the Senate.
On Thursday, President Biden signed the bill designating Juneteenth as a federal holiday into law, allowing federal employees to take this Friday off, as the holiday falls on a Saturday this year.
It marked the creation of the first new federal holiday in nearly 40 years, since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established in 1983.
“Throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names: Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day, and today, a national holiday,” Vice President Kamala Harris said.